Sometimes the best way to get family spending under control is to go cold turkey.
Living within a budget is a tough sell at the best of times. Something always comes up to mess with our good intentions: an office birthday or leaving party, a last minute outing with a friend you haven’t seen in ages, or a lost winter coat which needs to be replaced quickly.
There’s nothing you can do about situations like lost coats, but you can make a choice to get family spending under control by having a ‘no spend month’.
What’s a ‘no spend month’?
It’s thirty days of skipping on any extraneous spending and investing in necessities only. Like what?
- No entertainment that costs money
- No eating out
- No shopping, other than necessities
You can spend on rent / mortgage, essential groceries, heating, gas for the car and standard bills but you can’t add to them in any way that isn’t, strictly speaking, necessary.
Why do a ‘no spend month’?
Perhaps you’re hoping to kick start your savings. Or perhaps you want to remind your family that you don’t need to spend two hundred dollars at the local aquarium in order to have a good time together.
Whatever your rationale for wanting to try a ‘no spend month’, the key to success is a little preparation:
- Decide and agree on the ground rules: what constitutes a necessity and what doesn’t?
- Look at the month ahead and see if you already have some pre-arranged events, like birthday parties or the like, that you can’t skip out on and set a budget for these. Avoid months that are guaranteed to be a no spend failure, like December!
- Turn it into a challenge so that it’s fun for everyone in the family! You can also talk about what you might do with the money saved, like setting up a vacation fund, to get everyone excited about participating.
- Finally, research some ideas of things to do during your ‘no spend month’ by checking out articles like this one! Read on!
Ideas for activities during your ‘no spend month’
There’s nothing better than availing yourself of the great outdoors when you want to avoid a whole lot of conspicuous consumption!
- Visit a local park and do a scavenger hunt or play a game of football. In the warmer months, you’ll often find free events in the park like theatre, outdoor movies and more!
- If it has snowed, build a snowman or have a snowball fight.
- Pick a neighbourhood you’ve never visited and tour around. Pack a snack so you’re not tempted to drop into a restaurant en route.
- Take a bike ride and find some new trails.
- Take up jogging. Nothing like the present to take up a new sport or hobby that doesn’t add to the bills but will definitely help your waistline! Look for a walking or running group to join, to make it easier!
Leverage free services
If you do a little research, you will find free events and services in your city. There are always options:
- Go to your local library for an event, to browse books and pick up a movie or two for ‘movie night’ at home.
- Check for free swim or skate events at your local pool or arena.
- Stores like Home Depot often have free home improvement seminars. This could be the perfect way to decide how you’re going to invest your savings!
Look around your home at all the crafting supplies you have, or even things that could be recycled into crafts, and get creative. Egg cartons, jugs, an old sheet that could be cut into rags…
You could even have a competition within your family for the best table centrepiece created with ‘found’ items. You can apply this to the pantry too and figure out the most interesting meal you can make with items you already have and need to use up!
Get out those movies you borrowed at the library or turn on Netflix, make popcorn and you’ve got a family movie night. Some other ideas:
- Dig up some board games that you haven’t played in ages. Monopoly anyone?
- Card games like ‘Go Fish’ never get old and are suitable for younger members of the family.
- How about a rousing round of charades?
You really can have a huge amount of fun with your family, without spending a cent.
Volunteer your time
Not only can you save money but you can do some good in the world. What a great combination! Your ‘no spend month’ is the perfect time to finally start showing up at the volunteer role you checked out ages ago but didn’t have time to do. You’ll get something out of it too: the satisfaction of knowing you’ve helped others. It’s a great feeling and a good habit to start!
Make some money
A ‘no spend month’ is also a great time to start thinking about having a garage sale, or finding all the items you don’t need in your home and putting them for sale online. You can add those funds to what you saved during the month and really put a dent in paying for your future vacation, or whatever it is that you are saving for, as well as decluttering your house a little, in the bargain!
The ‘no spend month’ will probably help you and your family to realize how much stuff you have that you don’t need or even use, and maybe get you to thinking about doing with less and being more creative, on an ongoing basis. After all, saving money is a choice you make: doing with less at some point for a bigger payoff down the road. It’s a great lesson for kids and adults alike and while a ‘no spend month’ is a super way to kickstart your savings, finding ways to maintain your new found habits in the future is important too.